Friday, May 22, 2015

Ohio Supreme Court orders private Otterbein Univ. to give police files to student newspaper

In a win for freedom of information, the Ohio Supreme Court sided with the editor of a student newspaper at Otterbein University who had requested student and non-student criminal cases that had been referred to the Westerville Mayor’s Court. Otterbein has a student body of about 3,000.

The January 2014 request by Anna Schiffbauer, an editor at, was denied by the university’s vice president and student affairs dean, who said the "private university’s police records are not public," reports the Society of Professional Journalists, which helped fund the case with a $10,000 contribution from its Legal Defense Fund. "Schiffbauer filed a mandamus action asking the Ohio Supreme Court to order the release of the documents."

"In a 4-3 decision in State ex rel. Schiffbauer v. Banaszak, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered the Otterbein University police chief to produce the criminal records requested by Schiffbauer," SPJ reports. "The court said the university’s police department was established by statute to enforce criminal laws, and that function makes the department a public office under the state’s Public Records Act." (Read more)

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